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food: vancouver christmas market

well… when i first drafted this post, it was december 17th.  and christmas was almost upon us.
now, it has come and gone.
excuses excuses, but december was a particularly trying month for me for various reasons and lots of things fell by the wayside.  this post/blog being one of them.
to be honest, i also didn’t travel anywhere nor did i cook barely at all.  i certainly ate, but not much in the way of preparation…

but, resolutions abound in the new year… so i’m going to finish this post and then post some more.

for the last couple years, vancouver has played host to its own german-style christmas market.
and if there’s one thing i really enjoy, its a cup of hot mulled wine while wandering around eating and shopping for knick knacks.
so this was pretty much right up my alley.

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first off, kudos to these guys and the city of vancouver for treating us like adults and letting us wander with alcohol.
you could buy your hot mulled wine and/or a beer and wander freely inside the market.  not penned in to a beer garden looking longingly past the plastic fencing forced to choose between the drink and the market itself.
this was a vast improvement over many other events vancouver is home to, simply for that reason alone.  alcohol should not mean segregation.

i also was a huge fan of the mug deposit system.
instead of drinking your beverage from a disposable plastic or styrofoam cup, you received a real ceramic mug for the deposit price of $2.  then, if you wanted to keep your mug, you could… or you could return it for your twoonie back after you were done refilling as needed.
another great idea.  i wish other events would take heed and do the same with beer gardens and get rid of all those wasted plastic cups.

basically what i’m saying, is that this market took some of europe’s best ideas from their markets and instituted them.  which really, if you’re going to refer to yourself as a german christmas market, you’d better represent.

so, to show support for this idea, we immediately went into the lineup to get a mulled wine.

anyways… on to the food.
there were many choices, in fact, the stands were weighed heavily towards food over goods… which was just fine with us.

first stop… schnitzel.

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sorry for the overexposed picture, it was dark and flash was the only way to go.
anyways… the schnitzel itself was pretty damn good.  we waited about 25 minutes for it and received a lovely golden crisp piece of pork with a light panko coating.  served with a pita bread, potato salad, lemon wedge & a pickle.

overall… solid.  we ate it and liked it, but really, i think vienna has ruined me for schnitzel.
when it comes from the deep fryer its just not the same as the frying pan full of butter… and the potato salad was out of a costco bucket and sprinkled with dried dill.  don’t get me wrong, i’ve eaten my share of costco potato salad, but i guess i hoped for something a little more homemade.

next up was the spätzle!

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i was really looking forward to this…
after another 25 minute line up, we finally had our cheesy pasta-y goodness in hand and barely stopped to breathe.

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the smell coming off this stand is so amazing, it should be illegal.  essentially this fella above just continuously tosses the noodles in excessive amounts of clarified butter, bacon and onions in a giant wok-style cast iron frying pan.  have you ever just fried pasta in clarified butter until its cooked?  ya.  you should do that.  because it was pretty much my heaven.

throw in some bacon and fried onions and you’ve got a winner.
but seriously… so much butter.  i watched that dude use pounds of butter in the time i was in line.
then he scooped out a portion, smothered it in cheese and topped it with fried onions.  yup.

because we’d been smart and shared all our meals so far, we figured it was high time for a bratwurst.

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so for our last food stop of the evening, we hit up the brat stand and after a 30 minute line (see a pattern there?  we need more food stands!) we were rewarded handsomely with a lovely sausage on a crunchy soft roll smothered in sauerkraut and golden caramelized onions.

here’s a testament to how good that thing was… i hate onions and kauerkraut and i ate it all without picking it off.  it just seemed like one of those “when in rome…” kinda things.

bellies full, we grabbed a beer and wandered around to see the crafts.  overall we didn’t see too much that interested us… the one place with tons of cool looking stuff was in a building and the lineup was ridiculous to get in, and frankly i just didn’t have it in me to wait in yet another line, so we moved on.

we picked up an ornament for the mother in law and my husband purchased some alpaca socks (which he LOVES) and then we called it a night.
overall, it was a lovely way to spend an evening and i hope next year they expand the market because after the long line just to enter and then the continuous lines inside, i think a lot of people get frustrated.

but i’m happy to see the city giving these kind of events licensing and space and hope this is a tradition for many years to come.

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travel: the delights of waikiki

aloha!
once again, i must hang my head in shame and apologize for my absence. i was away for 9 days, but the rest of it has just been real life and a giant black hole of stress sucking my inspiration.  but this morning, i’ve committed myself to posting my hawaii roundup before i head off to seattle for the night.

november saw me return to waikiki for the 5th time.  but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing or anything important… it was about getting some sun and relaxing with my husband.  …and special guest appearances by my bro & his buddy and the puss & her family.  all around, it was a great time.

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we stayed at the aqua bamboo, which was new for me.  it was actually my first time not staying at a beachfront property right on waikiki beach.  for those familiar with the area, the bamboo is on kuhio, pretty much in line with the surfrider.  so it’s not far to the beach… lets say a 5 minute walk (2 blocks), but i will still stand by my preference of staying beachfront.
the hotel itself was good… cheap and cheerful as they say… nothing fancy, but absolutely fine for a week stay.  the hotel had an adorable little pool and the world’s tiniest hot tub, which was a factor in choosing the hotel, but at the end of it all we never actually made it in to either.

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i did enjoy that the bamboo had a very affordable massage place that was poolside.  my husband i both had a 50 minute massage for just under $80 including tax & tip.  a great bargain.  and boy did it ever feel good after that hike to diamond head.

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ah the diamond head hike… its turned into a must do for me.  you know… i must punish my body for so many mai tais.  somehow it makes me feel better. this trip, i literally woke my hangover up, did the 45 minute walk to diamond head, then did the hike and back and then ate a giant burger and then swam in the ocean,  then went for a massage.
overall, i’d say it was a hawaii win.  cured my hangover, thats for sure.

so, beverages will come in their own post, because in hawaii, there is no shortage of happy hour and tropical delights… but this one is all about the food.

hawaii’s food is a unique style of cuisine that defines melting pot.  it has strong influences from asia, polynesia, north america and when its mixed in with the traditional foods native to the area, you get things you can’t find anywhere else.  my husband’s favourite is loco moco.
basically loco moco is rice, a hamburger patty, 2 fried eggs done any style and smothered in gravy.  for breakfast. and its delicious.

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you know how they say; when in rome…?  well, when in hawaii, you’d best eat some loco moco.  and my husband did.  5 times.  lol.  he was on a mission to sample the local favourite at as many places as possible… and his verdict was that every place did it a little different, but at the end of the day, it was all delicious.  some places had a homemade gravy, sometimes adding mushrooms and/or onions… some places garnished with chopped green onions… some places put the gravy on top of the eggs, others eggs last.  some burger patties were clearly frozen from a box, others were hand formed and fresh.  but the base for all of them never changed… this delicious hawaiian style white rice.  i’m not too sure how they make their rice taste so good, but it sure does.  and for me, it’s one of my LOVES about hawaii, is that i can get this yummy sticky almost sushi style rice with my breakfasts.

so while my husband was eating his weight in loco moco, i was eating things like this:

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and i can’t forget the magic of this…

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ahhhh pancakes in hawaii.  another random thing to be in love with, but i never ever order pancakes at home. i just don’t care for them much. but in hawaii its a different animal.  topped with things like pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts and other local treats… and then smothered in coconut syrup instead of maple?  oh man, put a fork in me, i am DONE.

and let us not forget the papaya that much accompany every breakfast no matter what your main of choice is:

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yup, thats the stuff.

another island favourite is “pupus” which as far as i can tell is just hawaiian for appetizer.  which makes for hilarious (warning: may only be hilarious after several mai tais) jokes about needing to “take a wicked appetizer”.  haha.
anyhoo…. we had a lot of pupus.  because happy hour is cheap!  and if you do it right, you don’t really need a proper dinner.
one of my favourite destinations for pupus in waikiki is hula grill in the outrigger waikiki on the beach.  its upstairs from duke’s and often overlooked in favour of dukes.  but here’s the thing.  the decor is just as awesome upstairs, the food is pretty much the same and the drinks are waaaaay cheaper during happy hour.  so the hula grill is where you’ll often find me at happy hour…. eating things like: kahlua pork potstickers and ceviche and crab & mac nut stuffed won tons…

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and my personal favourites: crispy pork belly bao

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and the honey chicken lollypops which were ridiculously sticky sweet goodness.

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and at the end of a several hour long happy hour… we weren’t much worse for the wear financially.

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then there’s downstairs.  duke’s.  what can you say? if you’ve gone to waikiki, you’ve gone to dukes.  you just… have to.  yes, its loud and crazy and filled to the brim with pasty tourists and there’s children… but it’s dead centre in waikiki beach and makes a wicked mai tai and has good food and live music and, well, it’s just fun.

i am particularly in love with their salad bar.  there’s not a lot of good salad in waikiki, and dukes scratches my itch for fresh crispy lettuce and tons of good toppings so that i can construct my picky girl salad of choice.
but the fish entrees should never be overlooked.  you get the list from the server of whats in season and fresh right now and you choose from one of 4 preparations that they offer and chow down.  the fish entrees are always well cooked, perfectly seasoned and just fucking delicious.

we had the following: mine is the opah with mac nut crust and butter caper sauce (i just drooled typing that)
SAUTÉED MAC NUT AND HERB CRUSTED – Lightly dusted in parmesan cheese & bread crumbs, topped with lemon and caper butter

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and my husband dinned on the ono done duke’s style…
BAKED “DUKE’S STYLE” – Baked in a garlic, lemon and sweet basil glaze

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both were giant portions of fish so fresh, it may have been swimming yesterday… and at a fair market price.  plus it includes salad bar. did i mention the salad bar?

my last category for hawaiian eats is pop ups, food carts & beach shacks.  yes, food is everywhere in waikiki.  on two occasions this last trip, my husband and i grabbed some fish tacos & pork tacos from the food hut right on waikiki beach beside the surfrider and deemed it one of the best deals around.  $19 got us 4 giant tacos and a house brewed iced tea with pineapple juice in it to share.  not too shabby.

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a few days into our trip, on the way back from the beach to the hotel, we were surprised by a pop up market of sorts… except it was all food stands.  it wasn’t selling groceries, like our markets here, but selling fresh baked delights and pad thai and poke and even empanadas and dim sum treats.  so we stocked up and went back to our balcony with some local beers and made our own happy hour.

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last, but certainly not least… once can not forget that hawaii knows its food trucks.  possibly the best one i’ve ever seen… the malasadas truck.  leonards is famous for its malasadas which are basically like a big round dounut rolled in sugar and sometimes stuffed with creme or fruit filling.  they’re DELICIOUS.  and leonards is the king.  buuuuut we didn’t quite make it to leonards proper, so we were thrilled to stumble across their food truck on the way to sandy beach one day.

so while we did this:

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we also go to eat this:

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a clear win win situation.

and off course, on our quest to enjoy this beach:

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we also got to enjoy this shrimp shack on the north shore.

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there’s a lot of shrimp options, and generally we go to giovanni’s, but this one lured us in with their option to have local shrimp, while a lot of stands have switched to the cheaper and inferior thailand shrimp.  the difference slapped you in the face.  these were almost like my beloved spot prawns.  sooooo worth the half hour wait.  (this place was BUSY – also a good sign)

and of course, i had to have my coconut… and this time i also may have had a corn on the cob at the roadside pit stop…

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mmmhmmm.  and thats how i do hawaii.
oh, but before i wrap up, i’d like to give a surprising honorable mention to buba gump’s shrimp.  yes, it is a chain theme restaurant and generally that goes against my better instincts, but my husband loves it and he actually sold me on it with this:

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thats a pound and a half of hot fresh cooked peel & eats with half caijun spice and half butter and garlic.  ya, we slayed those in a few minutes flat.  they were messy and buttery and so fucking delicious.

but then we followed it up with some shrimp tacos…

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and the calamari that they swore was the best ever and you know, it actually was like top 5 in my life and i’ve eaten a LOT of fried squid in my day.

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theirs had half squid, half rock shrimp and also deep fried red peppers and pepperoncini peppers.  well played bubba gumps, well played.

and so, i leave you with my last view of hawaii for this trip… diamondhead from my brothers suite on the 33rd floor of the sheraton.  yes, it was a grand time had in hawaii, and yes, i’ll be back as soon as i can.

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food & travel: eastern europe

well hello!  now that my jet-lag has subsided and things are back to normal… here it is… my long-awaited food of eastern europe blog post!
it seemed a natural choice that my wrap up of this trip would be all about the food… but what i didn’t realize was exactly how many pictures of food i took… and sorting through them was a bit of a task.
and trust, i did take pictures of every single thing i ate… but this is the greatest hits, so to speak.

we started our fine culinary journey in prague.
our very first night was spent at a traditional czech restaurant that featured the classics of their culture… this was part of the included meals with contiki and really a lot of fun and delicious!
we started with some appetizers:

 

stuffed tomato, asparagus in ham… lettuce.  a nice light start given the meat extravaganza that would follow soon…
and the soup. it was a really tasty potato soup. light and well seasoned. and while part of me was a tad disappointed it wasn’t goulash, i realized when the main came that it was for the best.

we feasted on duck, sausage, ham and roast pork. and two kinds of dumplings (bread & potato) and it perched on two kinds of cabbage (red & white).
ridiculous amounts of meat & carbs. not a green vegetable in sight. welcome to eastern europe.

we finished off with crepes & coffee.

and enjoyed the entertainment…

day two in prague brought us more delights…
and i finally got my goulash and dumplings.
and we also had table pretzels (do not be fooled, they are not free) and maybe my favourite thing of the afternoon – svařák – a czech hot mulled wine that worked wonders for fighting the chill in the air.

 

i really must unravel the secrets of svařák for this winter… i see recipes online and i think its worth experimenting with because it is a delight.  after this meal, i grabbed a cup to go from a vendor and wandered through the fog across charles bridge.  this is the stuff dreams are made of, kids.

but all good things must… change scenery?  sure!  off to vienna!
one of my favourite meals of the trip was our first night in vienna.  it wasn’t fancy or rich or anything crazy, it was just very well cooked and featured fine ingredients.

our starter was a delicate leek & potato soup and our main was a braised beef with mashed potatoes and carrots.
dessert was a decadent chocolate lava cake.
wins all around!

   

but my most favourite culinary moment on this trip was definitely the schnitzel.

i was so excited to eat schnitzel in vienna… and so when i asked my contiki tour director for her suggestion, she sent me without hesitation to figlmuller for what is considered to be the best in city.  (man, i LOVE having an expert to ask these things!)

and behold… the mother of all schnitzels.
with a side of the most unique potato salad i’ve ever had, topped with lamb’s lettuce.  amazing.

see… look how happy this made me…

the most amazing thing about this meal?
i actually somehow managed to eat the entire schnitzel.  i have no idea how, but i can only take it down to sheer willpower and the fact that my new tour friends were cheering me on.
and also because it was so delicious and the thought of wasting it made me unbearably sad.
the potato salad was sacrificed.  while delicious, something had to give.

after a brief wander around gorgeous vienna, my companions and i had one more vienna specialty to take down.
so again, on the advice of our awesome tour director, we headed to cafe leopold hawelka for an apple streusel and an espresso.

oh wow.  this was an amazing experience on its own.
i’m not the biggest apple lover, but this was a pretty special little treat.  wonderfully balanced, not sweet and not full of mushy fruit.  when you taste it, you know why they say the best in world comes from austria.

and of course, i couldn’t leave vienna without one last specialty product… the world famous sacher torte.
i’ll be honest.  at this point i wasn’t sure i’d ever be able to cram anything else into my body…
so i bought 2 sacher tortes and packed them lovingly for home.  gave one to my mom and my husband and i devoured the other.  it did not disappoint.  its hard to describe… so just think of the best chocolate cake you’ve ever eaten and then times that by 10.  and add a layer of apricot jam.  and you have the magic that is sacher torte.
plus it comes in a fancy wooden box.

last, but most certainly not least… our final stop was when the contiki bus rolled into the gorgeous city of budapest.
where i once again was on the trail of goulash.

our first night we spent on a dinner cruise down the danube and there’s just no words for how stunning this evening was.  the food was an excellent buffet of local eats and the scenery was indescribable.

my last full day in budapest was spent wandering the city after a tour of the parliament buildings… and naturally i was powerless to resist a mid-morning snack in the form of pastry stuffed with cottage cheese.
seriously, budapest knows the power of the cottage cheese.  it’s in a lot of food. and i approve.

after snacks, we moved on to check out the food markets… i could do a whole post on the wonders of the market, but since this is a pretty picture heavy post already, i’m going to give you my two favourites.
a streusel stuffed with cottage cheese and apricots warm from the oven… and kremes.

  

kremes are an emotional throwback for me.  i used to work in a slovakian bakery when i was about 19 years old and we served up all sorts of proper eastern europe treats that i’ve never seen since.  until this trip.
kremes used to be my favourite dessert we made and i sold them by the sheet pan for $2 a square for about 2 years of my life.  and i’ve never seen them since.  so this was pretty cool to see them in their natural habitat so to speak.

anyways, after a trip to the famous szechenyi baths for a few hours of sweet sweet relaxation, we had worked up a bit of an appetite.
what could possibly be left to try that you can’t find at home?  langos!

basically you’re looking at a giant piece of deep fried dough (think a savory beaver tail for the canadians) and its then topped with sour cream, TONS of raw chopped garlic and a mountain of cold cheese.

the result is nothing short of magic….
this was something i had never heard of until this trip. so thank you jen, our contiki tour manager extraordinaire!  because its not easy to show me a food i’ve never heard of before.  especially one thats so clearly up my alley. (hello deep-fried + bread + cheese)

all in all, the food of eastern europe wowed me.  it was at times, what i expected, and at other times it caught me off guard.
i’m so excited and grateful for all the authentic cuisine that i had access to and truly commend contiki on their great work with sourcing great restaurants and being at the ready to point us towards unique specialty items.
as far as culinary world travels go, this was unforgettable and just so unique.
when i first saw the schnitzel come out of the kitchen in vienna… or my first taste of the hungarian paprika in the goulash… and the delight of seeing kremes in the market…

i loved this trip.  and i’d return in a heartbeat if given the possibility.
now… to the gym to work off all those langos, lol!

food: slow cooker beef with balsamic

so this is fun… the leaves are falling, the air is chilled… that means its SLOW COOKER SEASON!
hooray!  every lazy cook’s favourite time of the year.  i for one, am a huge fan.
but i’ll be honest… there gets to be a point when everything you throw in the slow cooker kinda starts to feel the same… it’s broth or tomato base… its a soup or a stew… since it comes from *my* slow cooker, its usually spicy and slightly mexican seasoned… it has mirepoix or similar for the veg…

yes, its easy to get into a slow cooker rut.
i did however find a fun listing of “30 nights of paleo crock pot meals” which has breathed new life into my slow cooker (can i from here on just refer to it as the SC? perfect.)

so yesterday i decided to try out the recipe from civilized caveman cooking for a balsamic roast.
i basically had all the ingredients in my house (besides the roast, which a quick trip to the farm solved) and it sounded different and tasty.  plus we buy a balsamic vinegar from costco that is not only delicious, but in a giant bottle, so i always feel the need to cook with a lot of it whenever possible.

step 1 – season & sear off the roast.

i used paprika, garlic salt, salt & pepper for seasoning and then seared it at high heat with coconut oil in my non stick.
it was smoky in my kitchen for 5am, lol.  but we were rewarded with a beautiful sear on that little fucker.
oh, it was a small beef top sirloin roast about 1lb – served 2 people.  the recipe calls for a 2lb roast but obviously serves more.

step 2 – veggies meet meat.

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the recipe called for onions only, but i had carrots & celery handy, so i threw together the tried & true mirepoix.
i used a whole yellow onion as per the recipe and 2 sticks of celery & 2 carrots.
then lovingly placed the seared roast on top.

step 3 – add liquid.

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the recipe told me to deglaze the pan with the wine & water, but since i seared mine at such a high heat, the pan had some black bits that i decided i should live without.
also, the recipe calls for white wine – which with beef seemed weird to me. so i used red.  also i had red open already and not white, so there’s that.
i combined the following and poured it into the SC:
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup tomato sauce (i used the italian kind in the glass bottle)
– 1/2 cup of red wine
– 1/3 cup of water
of course, throw in a pinch of salt for good measure and some cracked black pepper.

step 4 – cook on low for however long you’re going to be out of the house for.  mine went for 12 hours.

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step 5 – serve and eat up!

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final thoughts – as always, i think every recipe can benefit from chili flakes. but also i think its worth mentioning that often in recipes like this, i’ll remove the meat and use my immersion blender to puree the slow cooked veg, making the sauce thicker and more gravy-like.  that would have been delightful in this case.
the vinegar gave a nice acidity but didn’t overwhelm anything and the beef turned out delightfully slow cooker perfect.
and my house smelled fucking spectacular when i got home.
SC win!

here’s the original recipe for those that like to play by the rules.

Crockpot Balsamic Roast

Ingredients

  • 2 Lb any roast, I used Top Round
  • 1 Large Sweet Onion, sliced
  • 8 Ounces Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp White Wine
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Rub(Amount to your taste): Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Smoked Paprika

Cooking Steps

Season your roast on both sides generously with the spices listed above to your liking
Heat your coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, once warm sear each side of your roast for 3-4 minutes
Place your sliced onions in the bottom of your crock pot and put your seared meat on top of the onions
Combine your balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce in a bowl and mix well, then pour over your meat in the crock pot
Add your water and white wine to your pan and de-glaze it
Pour this mixture in your crock pot as well
Place the lid on, set to low and cook for 6-8 hours
Enjoy

food & travel: beaches turks & caicos

caribbean food is some of my absolutely favourite on earth.
it’s spicy and lively.  it’s always prepared with care and love and passion.  it makes the most of the local foods and doesn’t waste anything.  and more than anything, its just so different from the food you get in vancouver.

in canada, if you want good caribbean food, you have to head to toronto.  and indeed, every time i’m in toronto, the first place i hit up for food is a jamaican place.  you simply can’t get that level of authenticity out west.
yes, i have enjoyed many a fine meal at the reef in vancouver… but it’s just not quite the same.  but don’t get me wrong, the reef is a great bandaid for my caribbean food itch.

my absolute dream plate?  jerk chicken or pork… curried goat… conch in some form… rice & peas (that’s rice and beans, but they call beans peas in the caribbean)… and festival.
i am happy to report, i ate this on my very first night in turks.
and there is a picture… but it wasn’t on my camera, so i’m waiting for my friend to email it to me.  so when it comes, i’ll stick it in right here.

the locals in turks like to joke that the only thing that comes from turks is conch.  which is pretty much true.  almost everything is imported except the conch.  it reminded me very much of the bahamas in that respect.

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there’s a LOT of conch in turks.
and i mean… a LOT.

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no no no.  like A LOT!

Caicos Conch Farm

yup.  thats the conch farm.
a few of my coworkers worked there for their sandals foundation project.

conch is a hideously ugly thing in an absolutely beautiful shell.

in terms of taste… well, i like it.
a lot actually.
it’s kind of like a scallop in terms of flavour and in texture it tends to be quite rubbery, so the preparation and proper cutting and cooking is key to its enjoyment.

the first night i had it in a stewed form… the second night in a ceviche type salad (i couldn’t tell if it was pre-cooked, but i think it was) and then on my last night i had a traditional conch chowder that was a delight.

to no one’s surprise, the jerk chicken at beaches was exceptional.
there was a lovely restaurant that had a jerk bbq as part of their lunch buffet.  i ate there twice.  it was amazing.
and the view wasn’t so bad either…

and since that shot above is super washed out, this is the very past that lady’s shoulder.

and now for your epic fail portion of the blog…
i totally took two pictures of my jerk chicken and BOTH of them are blurry.
because i am the worst apparently.  food blogger fail. but here they are anyways.

ya, so basically that was lunch.  a big old slab of jerk chicken fresh off the bbq and smothered with hot jerk sauce… a slice of flank steak marinated in garlic & chili… and a tiny salad so i can technically say i ate something other than just meat.

and all the while, i enjoyed this view from my seat in the restaurant…

ya, i know.  rough life, right?

the only other time i had the presence of mind to take food pictures was our last night at schooners, which was a seafood place right beside the beach.
for my appie i had the seared scallops on a corn puree with a little seaweed salad on top and some sort of preserved fruit…

it was pretty yummy although the scallops were more steamed than seared.  in fact they didn’t have any crust or color to them at all, as you can probably see.

then i had a bowl of the conch chowder… which i didn’t take a picture of because it just looked like a bowl of chowder.  not cream based though, the classic recipe is something like this:

CONCH CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS:

Olive Oil – 2 Tbsp
Conch Meat, chopped – 1 pound
Garlic – 2 Tbsp
Onions, diced ½” – 1 ½ cups
Celery, diced ½” – ½ cup
Tomato paste – 3 Tbsp
Chicken Broth – 1 quart
Thyme, fresh – 2 tsp
Oregano, fresh – 1 tsp
Carrots, diced ½” – ½ cup
Clam juice – 2 cups
Potatoes, diced 1 – ½ cups
Tomatoes, diced 1 – ½ cups
Salt and Pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

Place the oil in a pot and heat until very hot.
Add the conch meat and sear for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil.
Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with croutons or crackers

and then for my main i had a seafood risotto.
it was ridiculously rich and i’m pretty sure it had oodles of butter, cream & cheese in lieu of actually following a proper risotto method… but hey, what can you do except eat it?

it was really tasty and among my table of 12 people, agreed to be the best main course served up.
but yes, helloooooo richness.

all in all i was pretty happy with the food choices at beaches.  i wish i had more freedom to explore the a la carte restaurants and more time of course, but 3 of our 4 dinners were buffets as part of our evening activities, so we didn’t have much say in those.
the breakfasts were underwhelming, but the all inclusive breakfast buffet never wows me.  the best they had to offer was the omelet station and their chocolate croissants were appropriately sinful.
i was also pleased to see an actual espresso coffee machine in the french village cafe to get my americano in the morning.  they also made a damn fine iced coffee.  and actually the plain regular coffee was quite good too.  jamaican blue mountain coffee is just so delicious.
overall better than the food choices i’ve seen at other all inclusives and i definitely give the thumbs up for incorporating the local cuisine into the offerings.

food: pie party

on sunday we had a pie party.
and it was pretty rad.

3 kinds of pie were served… one savory main and two delicious dessert offerings.

i took care of the savory pie.
since we had a vegetarian on board, i decided just to make a veggie pot pie… it had all the usual suspects… onion, carrots, leek, celery, peas, corn, yellow wax beans and red skinned potatoes.
i made a roux with butter & flour and then added veggie stock and a bit of milk.
seasoned it with salt, pepper, fresh thyme & rosemary.  and dried chipotles.

but the real star of this pie is the crust.
i kinda phoned it in with a frozen tenderflake puff pastry… but then i like to think i made up for it with the magic layer.
this idea is from a canadian living recipe… basically you roll out one layer of puff pastry and coat it with fresh grated parmesan cheese & fresh chopped herbs and then layer the other dough on top.
the result is a secret flavour layer that takes the traditional pot pie up a notch (or two)

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on to the sweet pies!
moonbeam made her decadent s’mores pie… which was so rich and sweet and aiodjg;fngakhnf.  gah.
it was ridiculous.

graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache that you wanted to rub all over your body… and vegan marshmallow fluff that was bruleed at serving time.
because she’s fancy like that.

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julie’s pie contribution was ridiculous in its own right.
a german apple pie filled with sour cream.
it was unlike anything i’ve had before.  and i’m not usually an apple pie lover, because the cooked fruit thing turns me off… but this was awesome.
so i made her give me the recipe to post for y’all.

Sour Cream Apple Pie (or just the German Apple if you prefer)

Filling:
3 TBSP flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/8 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
3 c. thinly sliced apples (granny smiths are good)

Bake in pastry shell 20-30 mins at 400 degrees
Reduce temp to 350 for 30 minutes more

Prepare topping:
1/3-1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3-1/2 c. flour
1-1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/3 c. butter

make topping into a crumble add to pie and bake another 20 minutes.

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this pie was GOOD.
and such a perfect compliment to the s’mores pie which was super sweet yumminess… this one had a little bit of acid and the filling itself was relatively neutral.

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then, in her infinite wisdom, moonbeam paired the dessert pies with a fortified wine.
which, truly was the icing on the cake.  or the crust on the pie.  depending on your metaphors.

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pie party = great success!

food: charred corn salad

okay,so i’ve pretty much been the worst for posting over the past few weeks… part of it has been because i’ve been busy and the other part has just been a straight up lack of anything good to say.

but i do have a recipe post for you…

last weekend i made a charred corn salad from my bon apetit magazine and it turned out, by all accounts, to be quite yummy.
i say “by all accounts”, because i didn’t actually eat any of it.
i’m trying to steer away from the corn and i don’t like tomatoes and onions. so this was really not something i made for *me*
which is fine. because it was meant for bbq sharing.

anyways, it was a little more time consuming than i thought… lots of tiny chopping and grilling the corn and shucking it ect… but it yielded a GIANT bowl of salad and was fresh & healthy and all that good stuff.

the recipe is here but i downsized it a little and only used 10 ears of corn, which i felt was PLENTY.
i also decided to go for a “everything chopped the same size” feel to the salad. so, mine looked a little different than theirs.

Charred Corn Salad with Basil and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 12 ears of corn, husked
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, large leaves torn
  • 1/3 cup (or more) fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Preparation

  • Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Rub corn with 1 Tbsp. oil. Grill, turning frequently, until corn is charred and heated through, 10-12 minutes. Remove from grill; when cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl. DO AHEAD: Corn can be made 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Place onion in a strainer and rinse with cold water to mellow its flavor. Drain well. Mix onion, remaining 5 Tbsp. oil, tomatoes, basil, 1/3 cup lime juice, and thyme into corn. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Salad can be assembled 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

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